PEORIA — A day after the fifth case of the new coronavirus was diagnosed in Illinois, OSF HealthCare issued a news release detailing the organization's preparation efforts in the event of an outbreak in central Illinois.
The flu-like virus has sickened more than 94,000 worldwide and killed more than 3,200, and the number of reported cases in the U.S. has been slowly growing. While no cases have been diagnosed in downstate Illinois, OSF HealthCare is working with state and federal health officials to prepare for the possibility of an outbreak in central Illinois.
“There’s a whole team of people who are working diligently to make sure that OSF can stay ahead of this event and mitigate what we can mitigate, and continue to treat our patients with the greatest care and love,” Troy Erbentraut, director of the office of preparedness and response at OSF HealthCare, said in a prepared statement.
Because shortages of medical equipment have been an issue in the outbreak worldwide, OSF is being proactive about supply management, said Lori Grooms, director of infection prevention and control.
“We have already drafted plans if we were to fall short on some of our necessary supplies, such as personal protective equipment, we are not at a point where supplies are not available for patient care," she said in a prepared statement.
As part of that effort, hospital workers have changed their workflow to help conserve critical supplies like the N95 face masks that protect health-care workers caring for sick patients.
“Instead of going into the room three times to perform three separate tasks, how can we bring those tasks together and perform them all at the same time?” said Grooms. “That would help to alleviate the burden on the number of supplies that we need, the protective equipment that we’re wearing.”
OSF HealthCare is also educating the public because community involvement is key in the effort to slow the spread of the virus. Frequent hand washing is the first line of defense against any infectious disease. Always cough into your sleeve or tissue, then wash your hands, and don’t forget to sanitize your cellphone once a day, said Grooms.
“A cellphone pretty much is an extension of your hand, and we put it in our purses, put it down on the counter, people probably take it into the bathroom with them, you know. It had a lot of contact with a lot of surfaces that have germs on them,” said Grooms.
Perhaps most importantly, stay home if you are sick. Whatever additional duties your co-workers might have to assume in your absence, the results will be much worse if you come to work sick and infect others, said Grooms.
It might be difficult to tell if you have COVID-19 because symptoms can be mild, and there are still a lot of cold and flu viruses circulating in the community. More serious cases of COVID-19 result in fever and difficulty breathing. According to the CDC, the virus has had the most severe impact on the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
If you decide to seek medical treatment, be sure to tell your health-care provider when scheduling your visit if you have been to a country where the disease is prevalent or have been around someone else who has, said Grooms. Another option is OSF OnCall, which allows you to see a health-care provider online without leaving your home.